What Could Georgia’s Anti-CRT Bill Mean for the Future of Education?


Graphic by Rachel Lichtenwalner

As Critical Race Theory becomes a more prevalent topic in politics, many wonder what that means for the future of education.

Maria Lemos, Staff Writer

Critical Race Theory: a three-word phrase that has generated much controversy during this year’s session of the Georgia General Assembly. Many parents want the concept banned, whereas many teachers have countered that the theory is non-existent in K-12 curricula. 

The theory is complex. Education Week defines Critical Race Theory as “the core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.” 

However, lack of a concrete legal definition raises concerns about what pursuing a bill against the theory might mean for teachers and school subjects that address racial injustices in American history.   

Many legislators in Georgia agree with Gov. Brian Kemp that Critical Race Theory, also known as CRT, is a “divisive ideology” that “pits students against one another.” 

This idea has fired up lawmakers to write several bills attempting to ban the concept. These bills include HB 888, which prohibits the teaching that “the United States is a systemically racist country.” 

Republican Brad Thomas, a member of the Georgia House of Representatives and the sponsor of HB 888, did not respond to emails or phone messages to his offices at the capitol and in his district seeking comment. 

Republican Representative Will Wade, sponsor of a similar bill, HB 1084, did not return a phone message or an email seeking comment about the legislation.    

The Bear Witness also reached out to the Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization that strives to influence public policy.  

The foundation, which did not respond to three messages seeking comment on its support for the anti-CRT legislation in Georgia, dedicates a section of its website to share how CRT is “infecting everything from politics and education to the workplace and the military. 

However, Jillian Ford, a social studies professor at Kennesaw State University, said otherwise.  

To Ford, the fight to rid schools of Critical Race Theory is futile due to the concern of it not being properly understood.  

“Even the drafters of the bill recognize that the [debate over the term] ‘CRT’ was not accurate, which is why none of the current bills use CRT in the language,” she said through an email. 

Ford, an opponent of banning CRT, is not alone in this opinion.  

Thirteen school board members representing several metro-Atlanta districts signed off on an open letter claiming CRT is not being taught in schools anyway and that these bills are “whitewashing” classrooms across Georgia. 

In an email responding to questions from The Bear Witness, Allyson Gevertz, a Dekalb County board member who signed the letter, said “CRT is a scholarly concept not included in our K-12 curriculum. Our teachers wrote our curriculum, and it covers history, but CRT is not taught.”  

This fact has also been confirmed by several Cambridge teachers and Principal Ashley Agans, which raises the question of why some Georgia politicians are targeting CRT.   

Social studies teacher Michael Shea said the bill will lead to teachers tiptoeing over subjects, such as the Civil Rights Movement or even events such as the Trail of Tears. 

“If a bill like this is passed, my fear is that because teachers know that this topic is so poorly understood, and because teachers know it’s being exploited for political gain, that they will be less likely to have honest and open discussions about race,” he said. 

Ford echoed Shea’s concerns. The KSU professor said students might miss out on learning fundamental concepts and skills necessary for an informed and participatory community.  

Cambridge social studies teacher James Campbell said Georgia House Bill 888 – one of several pieces of anti-CRT legislation proposed this year – essentially makes the current events course he teaches illegal. 

According to the bill’s text, “No public elementary or secondary school administrator, teacher, or other personnel shall compel or attempt to compel any individual to engage in or observe a discussion of any public policy issue.”  

Campbell sees a problem here. 

“If I’m teaching current events, which covers public policy, and there’s a student on their phone, and I tell them to put their phone down and pay attention, at that point, based on my reading of this law, I am then compelling an individual to participate in a conversation about public policy,” he said. “I am training them to be citizens of a democracy. Citizens should be able to discuss public policy issues.” 

Another thing to note is the role of concerned parents in targeting CRT.  

“Parents want more say in their children’s education,” said Shea.  

Therefore, the possibility of CRT being taught in schools was an opening for parents to protest.  

HB 888 outlines a complaint policy for parents concerned over what their children are being taught, said Campbell.   

Agans pointed out that parents have always had this right. 

“The reality is parents have always been allowed to file a grievance any time they want,” she said. “At no point have we ever said, ‘Nope, you’re not allowed to reach out to us about curriculum’.” 

Although educators may understand parents’ concerns about schools indoctrinating children, members of Cambridge’s faculty and administration deny this is happening.   

“Education sometimes is uncomfortable because it forces one to think about things in way they haven’t before. Education at its finest should challenge you to grow,” said Shea. “It’s our job as educators to arm students with the basic knowledge they need for this growth.”